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David McEwan was born in Manitoba, Canada in 1946, and raised in Henrietta, a suburb of Rochester, New York. At the age of eight, he resolved to become a doctor. Five years later, he read about Father Damien, a 19th-century Catholic priest who devoted his life to caring for people with Hansen’s disease (more commonly known as leprosy) on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Deeply moved by Father Damien’s example, David dreamt of one day devoting his own time and abilities to helping people at the margins of society.

After graduating from medical school at the University of Manitoba in 1972, David set off to hitchhike around the world. But as soon as his feet touched the sand in Hawaii, he knew it would one day be his home. In 1977, David moved to Hawaii and opened up his family medicine practice. In 1981, while attending a conference hosted by Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights, David got his first glimpse of what would become the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Returning to Hawaii, David began spearheading efforts to get ahead of the disease. In 1982, he co-founded the Life Foundation to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to assist and comfort those already infected with HIV. 

Those who envision Hawaii as a conflict-free paradise have never met the state’s religious and political conservatives – and they soon came after David and the Life Foundation. David was accused of profiteering, and even having sex with his patients. Fortunately, Hawaii is at root a progressive place – and David is both mild-mannered guy and absolutely unafraid to fight for what he believes in. Today, the Life Foundation is Hawaii’s oldest and largest AIDS service organization. 

Beyond his work with the Life Foundation, David has been involved with many other LGBTQ affiliated organizations and projects, including the Hawai'i LGBT Legacy Foundation, Names Project Hawaii, and Marriage Project Hawaii. He also served on the boards of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Hawaii Public Television. In 1991, he was awarded the ACLU’s Allan Saunders Award for Civil Liberties. Over David’s 38-year medical career, Honolulu magazine named him multiple times as one of Hawaii’s best doctors. 

OUTWORDS traveled to Honolulu in January 2018 to interview David at the Hawai’i LGBT Legacy Foundation (another organization where he serves on the board). In person, David is so accommodating and “smiley”, it’s hard to imagine him ever raising his voice, or getting really mad at anything. But his role model, Father Damien, probably didn’t yell much either. He just served those he was sent to serve – and in doing so, made his corner of the world a much safer, kinder place to live.
Connie Florez: [00:00:00] We are rolling.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: Hi. My name is David McEwan. D-A-V-I-D M-c E-W-A-N.
Mason Funk: Thank you. You're not seeing me walk around casually.
Connie Florez: No. Not at all.
Mason Funk: Ignore the camera, please.
David McEwan: Right.
Mason Funk: Ignore her.
David McEwan: Concentrate.
Mason Funk: Tell me the place and date of your birth.
David McEwan: September 21, 1946. Born in a rural town in Russell, Manitoba, Canada.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] Okay.
David McEwan: Immigrated to the US when I was three months old.
Mason Funk: Okay. Great. Do me a favor. Tell me a little bit about your family. Who was in it? Every family has a culture. What was your family's culture? What was valued? What was talked about? What wasn't talked about? That scenario.
David McEwan: My family was a gift to me. My mother and father were in love with each other. They ended up having five children. I was the oldest. The other four were all girls.
David McEwan: [00:01:00] They were the team that I managed when my mother and father weren't around. For the first eight years of my life, we lived in a trailer in Brockport, New York because my father had a job at Eastman Kodak Company, which he stayed at throughout his entire working life. We didn't have a lot of money. We lived in Brockport during the school year and then we went down to a place called Conesus Lake, which is part of the Finger Lakes. During the summer, we lived in a trailer park next to the lake.
David McEwan: [00:01:30] We didn't know that we were poor. We just thought we were so cool. We lived in a trailer. Very few people lived in a trailer. We liked the trailer a lot. I slept in one of the bunk beds. My second sister was in the other one. My third sister was in the drawer beneath the bunk beds. The fourth sister at the end, we had a dresser with boards around the edge. She was born and slept on the top of the dresser. Then my parents were in the living room and pulled the couch up. That's the trailer we lived in.
David McEwan: [00:02:00] We had a park behind the trailer park that was just weed of some kind. Maybe it was corn or something like that. That field played a lot of importance to me because I used to dream a lot as a child. I used to dream about flying all the time. I would dream about flying through the park and I'd have dreams at night. I'd wake up in the park and everything. I think it was a pretty innocent childhood. Going to Kindergarten, the first day, I cried.
David McEwan: [00:02:30] I know that because my parents told me that I was such a problem the first day. Other than that, after that, things worked well. About the age of eight, we moved into the suburb called Henrietta. Our family bought into one of the track houses. We lived there until we left and grew up. All of us went off to university. I lived there until I was about 17. I had decided at the age of eight that I-
Mason Funk: Let's pause.
David McEwan: Yeah.
Mason Funk: I want to think about that story.
David McEwan: Okay.
Connie Florez: Once this bus stopped.
Mason Funk: [00:03:00] Yeah. We might have to pause a little bit when the buses go by.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: Is it idling right now?
Connie Florez: Yeah.
David McEwan: Yeah, it is.
Connie Florez: It's probably waiting on the light.
Mason Funk: All right.
David McEwan: Yeah.
Connie Florez: To turn.
Mason Funk: Yeah. You mentioned that at the age of eight, you decided to become a doctor. Don't even go into the missionary yet.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: Just tell us the story about deciding at the age of eight that you wanted to become a doctor and why.
David McEwan: [00:03:30] I knew that my grandfather was a doctor in Canada.
Mason Funk: Give us the age.
David McEwan: At the age of eight, I made the decision to become a doctor. I think a lot of things played a role in it. I had a grandfather that was a doctor. I didn't know him but he was a doctor. I've heard that was a good thing to be. Up the street, one of my best friends, her father was a doctor. He would take us to the hospital at the University of Rochester to do things.
David McEwan: [00:04:00] Walk around the rounds and we just thought it was so cool and fun. My parents, when I talked about that idea, I knew I love science. My parents said, "Well, you know, you have to be good at science. You have to care about people." I just thought, "Oh, that's such a nice thing to do. Why don't I become a doctor?" It's an innocent decision. After some thinking, I found when I tested that on people and I tested a little bit in other people. I go out and say, "Well, I'm going to be a doctor." People would say, " Really?"
David McEwan: [00:04:30] As a child, I realized, if you told people that you're going to be a doctor, they liked you. "You're a nice person." Of course, every child wants to be liked. Initially, I think I used that as just to make people like me. Not that I was having problems. Then I realized, "Oh, this is interesting stuff. I'm going to the hospital." They'd take us to the labs and do all the stuff. That sounds right to me. I just made that decision.
Mason Funk: Great.
Connie Florez: I want you to check this frame just for a second. [inaudible] short stories. Does that take away?
Mason Funk: [00:05:00] I think that's okay. The fact that it's behind his head as opposed to ... I just didn't want anything on the right.
Connie Florez: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Except for-
Connie Florez: Okay. Wonderful.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Cool. It sounds like the other pivotal thing that happened or moment was when you're 13. You got a copy of ...
David McEwan: [00:05:30] Once I made that commitment to medicine, it was very much a commitment. I decided this was really going to happen. I had three things; I would also be willing to be an architect. My best girl friend, her father was an architect. I learned a little bit from him. I knew pretty early on that I couldn't draw. I thought you really had to draw to be an architect. The other thing I wanted to be was an opera singer. I would sing a lot in church. Actually, when I got into my teens, I became quite good at it. Mother nature took care of that one.
David McEwan: [00:06:00] My voice started changing. I realized, "You suck. You can't be an opera singer." That ruled those two out. I was very happy with the idea of a doctor. At the age of 13, I could still remember reading this at home. I read a book. It was given to me by my family. Read about Hawaii. It was Micheners book about Hawaii. Of course, it's a book of fiction. The people in the book were really real people. The missionaries were all real people. I read the story.
David McEwan: [00:06:30] I was very intrigued that in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is this beautiful place. These wonderful people were there. In the book also, I learned of the work of Father Damien. I'm not Catholic but I learned of his work with leprosy. He seemed to be a very dedicated person that wanted to take care of people that were oppressed and hurt and suffering and who had been ostracized out onto a little slip of land on the island of Molokai. I just thought, "I want to be like that person that does those kind of good things.
David McEwan: [00:07:00] You're going to be a doctor. He's a priest. You're not going to be a priest. You could be a doctor that really cares about people and would work with people that have been ostracized and all that kind of stuff." I made the decision. I'm going to Hawaii. I didn't tell a lot of people. I sometimes would tease my parents because it seemed totally ridiculous and absurd to contemplate that. That stayed with me for my whole life until that time when I was old enough to have to make that decision.
David McEwan: [00:07:30] I had ... When I was in medical school decided that, if I survive medical school, at the end of medical school and the internship and everything, I deserved a trip. I decided I was going to take a trip around the world and hitchhike around the world. Take a year off between my training, the internship and when I begin my residency in family practice. I finished my internship at Toronto General Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
David McEwan: [00:08:00] My residency at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg was scheduled. I scheduled a year and a half off. I went and worked in an emergency room for 10 months to raise money because I had no money. Then I went and got on this trip around the world. Heading West to Winnipeg, to Vancouver and down the coast of California into Hawaii, I landed here. It would be in '74. I was blown away. The first day I was here, I was in Waikiki at some of those little two-story walk ups.
David McEwan: [00:08:30] I didn't know anybody. I was like, "I'll just stay here." I walked along the beach of Waikiki and down to Diamond Head. At that time, I knew I was gay but I wasn't out. The first place I hit that was really nice was Queen's Surf, which is a gay beach and all these gay people there and I'm like, "Oh, my God. I can't stay here. What do I do?" I'm going down further. I went to Diamond Head Beach,
David McEwan: [00:09:00] which is a little further down at the base of Diamond Head. Gorgeous, gorgeous beach. There were people all over. There was a whole bunch of gay people. I went, "Make up your mind, or shut up and sit down." I shut up and sat down. There are people all over, which is no big deal. There are two guys nearby. I sat on there talking and stuff. At some point, we just started talking. It's so weird because one guy, his name was Nino Martin who was the Executive Director of Hawaii Public Television at that time.
David McEwan: [00:09:30] That day, he had just finished his PBS special entitled, Damien, starring Terry Knapp. That film has gone on to win Peabody Awards. It was used to educate the Pope on the canonization of Damien, for the Pope to learn more about Damien. Terry Knapp, who I got to know later on, who's another gay man. I saw that film that night. I'm two days in Hawaii. I see what becomes a world famous film that nobody's seen about Father Damien.
David McEwan: [00:10:00] It's a two-hour soliloquy. I recommend it to the whole world. It's mind boggling. It's just called Damien.
Mason Funk: [crosstalk]
David McEwan: I think start up on Damien.
Mason Funk: Okay. Just to interrupt you a little bit, I want to slow you down.
David McEwan: Okay. I'm talking too fast?
Mason Funk: It's not that you're talking too fast in literal terms but you're covering a lot of territory. I want to just break some of these in little stories.
David McEwan: [00:10:30] Okay.
Mason Funk: I guess I want to get some more of the feelings of what it was to arrive in Hawaii for the first time.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: If you don't mind-
David McEwan: Sure. Back up? Just arriving in Hawaii?
Mason Funk: Pardon?
David McEwan: You want me to go back to arriving in Hawaii?
Mason Funk: Yeah.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: My question for you is, after having had this notion to be a doctor in Hawaii for so many years, what was it like to just land here for the first time?
David McEwan: [00:11:00] Okay. Tell me when, Connie?
Connie Florez: We're rolling.
David McEwan: Okay. In 1974, I arrived in Hawaii on this trip around the world. I was blown away initially. It was far more beautiful and gorgeous than I could ever have imagined in the real book world. I had seen postcards and seen things on TV, but this black and white TV those days,
David McEwan: [00:11:30] I think. No. Maybe there's a little color. Anyhow, I was blown away. I actually decided that maybe I'll cancel my trip. Because this is so much better than could it be possible. After about a month of being here, I decided, "No. You only get to do a trip like this once in your life. You can always come back to Hawaii. You've already decided you're going to come here anyways. Finish your trip." During that trip, on the first day, I walked down the beach.
David McEwan: [00:12:00] I was really uptight because I came to the gay beach and I wasn't out yet. I like, "I got to move on." I went further down the beach to Diamond Head Beach, which was spectacular at the base of Diamond Head. I ended up with more gay people on the beach. I sat down, started just talking to people nearby. One of them was Nino Martin, who at that time was the Executive Director of Hawaii Public Television. That day, he had just finished his PBS special that went on to win The Peabody entitled Damien.
David McEwan: [00:12:30] Which is a two-hour soliloquy by Terry Knapp talking about the life of Damien. It's a masterpiece. I recommend it to everybody in the world. It's still available. I saw it that night. I went, "This is providential. You really should stay here in Hawaii." That was pulling on me a lot but I kept on saying, "But you can come back. That's possible." The other person with him was Miles Weiner,
David McEwan: [00:13:00] who was an interior designer, an architect but at a super incredible level. He lived in the world of architecture. I vicariously could live his life a little bit. He went on to do amazing things all over the world. Those were my first two friends in Hawaii. It's like, "What incredible people."
Mason Funk: When you were meeting these people, were you letting on that you were gay? Even these people or you're still pretending to be curious?
David McEwan: [00:13:30] You really want the facts.
Mason Funk: Of course, I do.
David McEwan: Okay. This is going to be a first for the world, folks. Because I'm not usually out about this. Nino Martin, the Executive Director, I came out with him that night or the night after or something like that because he was a gay man. Both of the guys were gay. I came out in Hawaii.
Mason Funk: What do you mean when you say you came out?
David McEwan: I knew I was gay. I had never had a sexual relationship with anyone.
David McEwan: [00:14:00] When I arrived here and this Damien thing was right there. I've got to stay at another guy was gay and he just was older than me and he was curious and I was curious. Bottom line is, I came out with him. We remained very good friends for many, many, many years. Just as friends until he subsequently died with AIDS a number of years later.
Mason Funk: That must have been mind blowing. It's the fulfillment of this-
David McEwan: [00:14:30] I really felt it was providential that for reasons I didn't understand, I dreamt about being here. I pulled it off. I'm here. I'm reading about Damien. That's why I thought about quitting the trip and then I just said, "No. I got to do this trip." Little did I know that it was preparing me for something else.
Mason Funk: When you say providential, some people might not know what you mean by that.
David McEwan: [00:15:00] In a sense, I think my life experience growing up in a family that was Presbyterian and a very positive religious life that was very liberal or progressive. I had another weird experience or another thing. Our family was very gay supportive. I didn't really understand that. I found out when I finally came out in Hawaii to my parents when I was 28 years old.
David McEwan: [00:15:30] My mother's reaction was, "We knew when you were five years old." I was blown away like, "How in the hell did you know that? Why didn't you tell me?" Because I was so worried about coming out to them. She said, "You were just a very different kid. You never got in fights with anyone. You kept on doing well in school. You managed your sisters well. You never went on battles with them and stuff."
David McEwan: [00:16:00] "You've kept little arguments but you just were a normal guy that I as a mother expected you to be." She said, "You were no problem. I thought you might be gay." She said that she made sure that anti-gay things weren't happening in the house. We belonged to a church. The other thing that blew me away before 28 when I told her in Hawaii, I was already here for a year or two. While I was in university, unbeknownst to me,
David McEwan: [00:16:30] my mother and father both started volunteering for Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, I think it's called in Rochester, New York. They were going around.
Mason Funk: One sec for the motorcycle.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: Just start with unbeknownst to me.
David McEwan: Yeah. Unbeknownst to me, when I was in university, my parents started getting involved with gay support groups through the Presbyterian Church. They would go around and help run the groups.
David McEwan: [00:17:00] They would go around and speak to families that were having kids. I hadn't even told them that I was gay. I think they knew and they were still waiting for me to tell them. When I told them, not only did they say that, "We knew when you were five. We've been working in the church helping create support groups." Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns. That's what it's called. Yeah.
Connie Florez: Plane. Yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:17:30] Let me ask you this. Did your parents tell you that they got involved in those groups because they knew you were gay?
David McEwan: Because they thought I was gay. They figured that someday, I would tell them. They didn't want to put pressure on me. They knew I was starting up a new job and everything like that. They didn't know where I was in the scheme of things. "I'm sure he'll tell us." The weird thing that happened when they were here in Honolulu was a family reunion. Everybody was here. I had decided I was going to tell them.
David McEwan: [00:18:00] I was beginning to freak out a little bit. For some reason, I thought I'd be rejected in some way. At one point, my sister, she and I were out doing something. She grabbed me and she just sat down and said, "David, you got to tell us. You're acting different. Mom said maybe we shouldn't have any more reunions here in Hawaii because you're so speedy. You're not quite like yourself." She didn't know what was going on. I knew. I was terrified.
David McEwan: [00:18:30] The next day, my parents were getting ready to leave. It was coming down to the push to shove. I got to tell them. I talked to my sister. I said, "This is why." I told her that I was gay. She said, "Is that all?" I said, "Let's go tell them right away so we could get on to more important things." I went, "Oh, my gosh." At least my sister is not going to reject me. At least one of them. I went down there and I told them. Like I said, my mom said, "Well, we've known since you were five. We've been doing this stuff with the church."
David McEwan: [00:19:00] The other thing that happened as a result of that experience that totally floored me is they decided a week or two later when they left. They were all going to write me a love letter about why they had no difficulty about me being gay. When I got those letters unexpected because they didn't tell me, it wasn't a digital world at that time in the 70s. I was just blown away. The culmination of the story is that I realized that I was just a very fortunate kid.
David McEwan: [00:19:30] That I began to understand really and like so many people in the gay community, the LGBT community, have so many negative experiences. They're told they're bad. They're told various religious anti-gay things. Basically, I've concluded that being gay is God's gift to me.
Connie Florez: Pause.
Mason Funk: We don't want this to be competing with that. Result of all these things. Sorry.
David McEwan: [00:20:00] Sure.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: So many LGBT kids are brought up in the last few decades. They've heard all sorts of hateful things from religions and people and political people who use religion to create power for themselves. How bad they probably were and there's such pain in the community. I've come to appreciate that being gay is God's gift to me. That's the message that I take to kids when I'm talking to them or groups or anything
David McEwan: [00:20:30] that I'm just lucky to be gay. It has empowered me in so many different ways. The pain that every people have that I don't have, I've just decided a long time ago that it's just natural for me to become an activist. To make sure that no one else experiences this. That's one of my goals in all the things that I do is try to make it better for the next generation so they don't have to suffer. So that someday, and that's even beginning to happen now that we've got marriage in Hawaii,
David McEwan: [00:21:00] some of the LGBT kids, they don't really understand what we're talking about. I laugh inside. I don't really tell them but I'm going, "We're winning the battle." Because when they really don't understand it, then we've succeeded.
Mason Funk: What's the difference? A lot of people struggle mildly just to feel like God "accepts them." For you, you actually feel like it was a gift.
Mason Funk: [00:21:30] Why do you feel that God not only loves you despite you being gay or notwithstanding you being gay but you actually felt it was a gift?
David McEwan: I know. I'm a physician. I've done a lot of studies over the years with genetics and immunology and basic family practice and everything. I've dealt with everything. I truly believe it's genetic. I believe my genetic history just happened in a sense, it's God-given chance. Just like lots of other people get those genes,
David McEwan: [00:22:00] it's like, "Fine. Have a nice day." I was born gay. So what? Embrace it. Don't believe the hate mongers. Another thing. There was a movie that was filmed in Hawaii called South Pacific by ...
Mason Funk: Rodgers and Hammerstein.
David McEwan: Rodgers and Hammerstein. A lot of people don't remember that movie. It's been quite some time. It was a Broadway play. The one controversial song in the movie, you may or may not remember it.
David McEwan: [00:22:30] You've got to be taught to hate a lot before you're six or seven or eight. You got to be carefully taught to hate. You've got to be carefully taught. When they were making the movie, the people in LA wanted that song out of that movie. Rodgers and Hammerstein so I've been told as they said, "You take that song out and we're out. Because this whole show, this whole movie is about that one song even though most people don't get it." That's the essence of this movie. As I was dealing with the world of same gender marriage and dealing with AIDS and dealing with all sorts of things ...
Connie Florez: [00:23:00] Red light.
Mason Funk: Okay. Just hold that thought.
David McEwan: Sure. You got to be taught to hate.
David McEwan: [00:23:30] Rodgers and Hammerstein's song, you've got to be carefully taught to hate, it suddenly dawned on me with all the other things over the years that that is the essence of the homophobia that's so inculcated into our religions for thousands of years. Not a single person is born hating. You are taught hate.
David McEwan: [00:24:00] You are taught by the religions. You are taught by the politicians. You are taught by people. The biggest teacher of hate in the world is religion, tragically. Second biggest teacher is politicians. The third biggest teacher is some of the schools. Every single person can be saved from hatred. We're just stupid enough as a culture and as a globe to not realize that and not really direct ourselves of those three things. That's where hate comes from. That's where homophobia comes from.
David McEwan: [00:24:30] I reject that teaching. I never experienced that teaching. I was never given it by my parents. I wasn't given it by my church. That song is the essence. To everyone in the world, go out and broadcast that song. That's the essence of the hate. The bottom line is and getting back to your initial question, I was raised in a world in my immediate family without hate.
Mason Funk: [00:25:00] Did you ever ask your parents how they came to have such an accepting perspective on homosexuality at a time when most people and even more so, most people of faith were not progressive were not tolerant? They could have sowed with a different-
David McEwan: Two things. One, very simple.
Mason Funk: I don't know what you're talking about. My parents-
David McEwan: Yeah. My parents, I think when they made the assumption that I was gay when I was five, they decided that, "Okay. We've got to talk about this. We've got to make sure there's no hate."
Mason Funk: [00:25:30] A plane.
David McEwan: Plane, yeah.
Connie Florez: Loud and clear.
Mason Funk: Sorry.
David McEwan: That's okay. As I said earlier, my parents, my mother had the feeling that when I was five that I might be gay. She and my mom talked about it, I know. They told me that. They just tried to make sure an environment was not negative for me. I think they probably and this is an assumption. That through the church, they just developed a few gay friends.
David McEwan: [00:26:00] I know there were no gay relatives. Actually, I think there might have been one uncle that was gay. Yeah. Actually, there was. My mother knew a little bit about it. Bottom line is they're just very loving, good people. Bottom line, I had that very positive growth experience. I grieve over and over and over and over and over again over the decades when I see other kids that are suffering. I try to help them. Just a few days ago,
David McEwan: [00:26:30] I was helping one guy online. He's 32 and he's still closeted back in my hometown. He's just thinking about leaving the family. Fortunately, he's got his education at least, starts a bit. I'm just helping him how to make the decision. You need to escape the hate. He's getting it from his church right now and from his family. You have to let go. You can come back another time.
Mason Funk: Wow. Okay.
Connie Florez: [00:27:00] Pause.
Mason Funk: I'll frame my questions while waiting. Because this is an important chapter in Honolulu LGBTQ culture. Granted, I don't think you were here at that time. Are you able to tell us?
David McEwan: I can tell you what I know.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: Certainly, Connie has had a lot of famous exposure to lots of stuff more than I have. I didn't really know very much about the Mahu community until I moved here.
David McEwan: [00:27:30] Then I learned through reading and stuff that that is normal part of Hawaiian culture, which is actually totally logical. Because it's a normal part of the human condition. It's nothing in a sense if you really look at any culture, anywhere in the world, that's just homosexuality and its there everywhere. The Hawaiian culture had a unique way of dealing with it by saying, "It's okay." In fact, and correct me if I'm wrong. I think I'm pretty darn right on this.
David McEwan: [00:28:00] If we look at our history really closely, it was not uncommon in culture for the king and/or the queen to have even the same gender partner. That was okay. It was normal. That's normal. It actually started going into the closet when the missionaries arrived and telling them that it was not okay. The transgender community have been some of the most aggressively progressively coming out group
David McEwan: [00:28:30] that I've observed in the decades that I've been here. At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, they were very well-developed. They had their own entertainment areas. They had their own community. They were suffering because I know that as having transgender people as my patient. In terms of their being abused by people and the work industry and any industry because they were like, "Who are you really?" They would often have trouble getting good jobs and maintaining good careers. That's all changing now but it still has a lot of ways to go.
David McEwan: [00:29:00] The bottom line is, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the first event was put on by the transgender community for our AIDS Foundation here in town, The Life Foundation. Even going all the way up to now, we still have battles that have been fighting over the last 10 years in the legislature. It's reached a point now where a lot of the TG people have now got the rights. This year, we have a transgender person who's formally on the Board of Education
David McEwan: [00:29:30] and is running for Lieutenant Governor in our state. She's already announced. I think she's got a good chance of winning. We have a lot of other transgender people that are at our AIDS Foundation here, The Life Foundation, their staff is 25% transgendered. They do incredible work in that disease and dealing with it in the community. On our LGBT Legacy Board of Directors, we've had TG people over the last decade
David McEwan: [00:30:00] because we've been in existence for 10 years now. I just think there's a transformative thing going on in all aspects of the LGBT questioning and question group out there, queer community. It's quite transformative. Hawaii is probably far more progressive than a lot of other places in the nation. We've got a lot of firsts in that area.
Mason Funk: [00:30:30] Great. I want to get back to your story but I want to get that perspective. That was awesome. Now, as you arrived here and began to practice medicine, give us a sense, as a physician, of what was the general perspective of the medical establishment with regard to gay people? Say around the end of the 1970s?
David McEwan: [00:31:00] I arrived in Hawaii in 1977 to start my family practice program. From there until I retired in 2015, I was averaging anywhere from 15 to 30 patients a day. I was working really hard. I got involved a lot in the medical community and on different boards for hospitals and doing different things with the Hawaii Medical Association. All of a sudden, in '79, '80, I started having gay patients. I didn't have an exclusively gay practice.
David McEwan: [00:31:30] I have everybody, from basically teenagers all the way until the end of life, seniors. I had gay patients that started developing peculiar symptoms, which we now know as AIDS related complex with the early stages but we didn't know it. In 1981, I had Hawaii's first case of AIDS. In those years leading up to it, I didn't experience any discrimination as being a gay man. I wasn't flagrantly out there but by that time, I was out.
David McEwan: [00:32:00] I didn't announce it. I go to the gay bars and stuff. I go to Hulas and go to Mary's and a couple of other places. I saw people all the time that were gay. I had a large number of gay patients and it was no big deal. It was never really a topic of most of the Hawaii Medical Associations or at the hospital ground rounds or anything. They never had any gay issues or anything like that. I just basically was happy.
David McEwan: [00:32:30] I was going along okay. I wasn't having any trouble. I was just working really hard. Then I had these first cases of AIDS related complex starting. In '81 I believe it was or beginning of '82, I had Hawaii's first case of AIDS. Pneumocystis pneumonia that got admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed. All of a sudden, this disease was present on us. One little thing in the '81 had already happened to me.
David McEwan: [00:33:00] I've been going to the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights meetings in San Francisco where I met other gay physicians. I was at the first meeting. I was sitting right next to Randy Shilts who did And The Band Played On and lots of other amazing books. I was talking to him about these AIDS related conditions that neither one of us knew what it was then. We were both hypothesizing different possible causes to this. Because it was on the topic that day, we saw and we didn't know what it was going to be. We didn't use AIDS at that time or even AIDS related complex.
David McEwan: [00:33:30] We're just talking about skin lesions. Dr. Friedman-Kien, I think I'm pronouncing it correctly, a dermatologist in New York City, got up and presented cases of AIDS, Kaposi sarcoma that he'd been seeing in New York City. I had just come back from the washroom. I was standing in the back of the room. He did this presentation on KS. He said to the crowd, "Has anyone else here seen anything like that?" Hands went up all over the room.
Mason Funk: [00:34:00] Sorry.
Connie Florez: Say that one more time.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: Hold on one second. Okay.
David McEwan: I was in the back-
Mason Funk: There's another situation where you're covering a lot of territory.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: I want to take a breath.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: Let's talk about this conference.
David McEwan: The conference, okay.
Mason Funk: The conference you attended with Randy. Let's set this up as a new topic.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: Give us the year. Because this is really super important.
David McEwan: Right. Okay.
Mason Funk: I don't want to rush you over it.
David McEwan: [00:34:30] Right.
Mason Funk: What's the name of the physician? Let's get that name clear. The one from New York?
David McEwan: Friedman-Kien.
Mason Funk: Friedman-Kien. Okay.
David McEwan: I think that's correct.
Mason Funk: Just say the name as best you can and don't qualify.
David McEwan: Okay. Okay.
Mason Funk: Just paint us a picture of this moment at this conference. You're sitting right next to the journalist, Randy Shilts. That's already deciphered now. This question's posed and the hands go up. Just take us through that moment.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: Just take us through it second by second almost.
David McEwan: [00:35:00] Roughly, in 1978, I joined a new organization in San Francisco called the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights. It's the first exposure that I had to an organized gay doctor group. I was really loving it because we just had things to talk about. These were peers. People are asking me about jobs in Hawaii and all sorts of that stuff. I was sitting right next to Randy Shilts who became a famous author. We were hypothesizing this new disease that people were talking about. Nobody really knew what it was.
David McEwan: [00:35:30] I went to the washroom, came back standing in the back of the auditorium. Dr. Friedman-Kien was talking about Kaposi sarcoma in gay men. Everybody was like, "Okay. That's interesting. What are you talking about really?" He made the comment towards the end, he said, "Has anyone else in the room seen this?" Hands went up all across the room. This is a rare skin cancer that usually traditionally only occurred in people in the Mediterranean region of Europe
David McEwan: [00:36:00] and often in people in the Jewish community sometimes. Everybody were looking around like, "What's going on here?" We got conversation really going. That was my first exposure to AIDS as what came to be known as AIDS. Within a month or so of that, Dr. Michael Gottlieb, who also became a good friend after that because we started sending patients back and forth. He made the first announcement of Pneumocystis pneumonia that got reported with the Center for Disease Control.
David McEwan: [00:36:30] I learned about AIDS sitting in a doctors conference in San Francisco. The weeks after that, I diagnosed this first case of pneumocystis. I'm like, "Whoa. It's coming to Hawaii, too."
Mason Funk: Wow.
David McEwan: She's probably going to hear at the company.
Mason Funk: Wow.
David McEwan: [00:37:00] She's raising money right now but as she said to me, "I really don't need the money. I need the vote." She said, "Go get a whole bunch of $1 donors for me," which I thought was totally wise. I said, "Start an ad campaign saying, give me a dollar and give me your vote. That's all I need."
Connie Florez: Yeah.
David McEwan: You don't have to tell. She can pay her own way.
Mason Funk: Okay. Are we good? Now there's another something.
Connie Florez: I hear another one.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: [00:37:30] Okay. At that time, right around this meeting in San Francisco, I also had my first case of HIV in Hawaii. Okay. They're suffering badly. Right around the time with this meeting in San Francisco, I had a fellow in Hawaii that I diagnosed with pneumocystis pneumonia. It was Hawaii's first case of AIDS. I had heard about this doctor in San Francisco that was working on this that I could send my patient to to get a second opinion
David McEwan: [00:38:00] and see what we could learn about it. His name is Dr. Donald Abrams. He was a fellow at UCSF Moffitt in San Francisco, at Dr. Varmuss lab. I sent the patient there. About a month or so later, I went over to meet him and see what I could learn. I'll never forget this for the rest of my life. I basically went up into his lab. He said, "Let's go look at the lymph nodes of your patient upstairs because I think there's some interesting stuff here." We looked at the lymph nodes and he says,
David McEwan: [00:38:30] "Right now, I'm doing my research on the T-cell leukemia virus that causes leukemia in Japanese people and some other Oriental folks as well. We've isolated that HTLV-1 virus. My prediction is, the lymph nodes from those patients look the same as this." (We weren't using the word AIDS then.) He says, "I predict that this disease is caused by a T-cell-like leukemia virus. It's sexually transmitted.
David McEwan: [00:39:00] It's terminal. There's no cure for it. Take that with you back to Hawaii and see what you can do to save lives." When he said that last thing, there's no cure for it, it's terminal. He wasn't saying it jokingly. He was saying, "This is really bad. This is what I think was going on." Little did I know at that time that he just gave me the cause of the disease and he was correct. There was no proof of it out in the world. Basically, I had this very serious message. " This is a sexually transmitted terminal illness.
David McEwan: [00:39:30] Deal with it." I came back. I got the information from Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City. I got the brochures from San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Both of which were about maybe a year old about that time. I think they may not have exact names they had at that time. I'm not sure. I got permission to reproduce the brochures as long as I credited them. That's basically when I started with three friends, The Life Foundation. Originally, we weren't sure what to call it.
Mason Funk: [00:40:00] Let's pause a bit. Let's make this a new story.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: Also, I want to go back. We'll come back to that.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: I want to ask you if as a family physician, setting a practice in Honolulu, how did you navigate if you were out, was there never a case of a family who said, "I'm not bringing my kid to a gay doctor." Did you keep the fact that you were gay completely out of your professional life?
Mason Funk: [00:40:30] How did you manage that? Set up what you're answering. As a gay physician, setting up practice in-
David McEwan: As a gay physician, I was also just a normal person. I never advertised myself as a gay physician. I started an organization of AIDS related doctors like the one in San Francisco and LA and a few other places. We started that community consortium of AIDS physicians.
David McEwan: [00:41:00] I was involved in being the co-founder of our Hawaii AIDS foundation. The word is out in the gay community that I and a couple of other doctors that were just getting involved as well at that time. I never really worried about what other physicians might think or say about me. If they thought negative things, then bye. Have a nice day.
David McEwan: [00:41:30] I wasn't experiencing any rejection from the medical community. Again, this is still a pretty progressive state. Where I was facing stress was from the political and religious leaders as AIDS became real. They began to realize that and it was a firestorm of people. I can go into that. That's where it came from. I really didn't have trouble with the doctors. Although the Hawaii Medical Association, there were a couple of doctors that were reluctant to start developing committees for AIDS initially.
David McEwan: [00:42:00] Ultimately, that's why I ended up leaving the Hawaii Medical Association because they were interfering with what I thought was progress. There was just so much that needed to be done. The last I needed to do was fight that battle. Eventually, they came around and they started forming AIDS groups. I ended up being on the board of those groups. Again, it comes from the weaknesses of mankind and womenkind.
David McEwan: [00:42:30] It's basically when you get organized, with religion and politics coming in, you start doing negative things. The Hawaii Medical Association tended to be a more conservative organization. I hate to say it but a lot of Republicans were there. They're anti-gay historically speaking. They were preventing various things to happen. I'm going, "Okay. Fine. Bye."
Mason Funk: What was some of the specific things? You said, I can go into that. You say that things that came down on you.
David McEwan: [00:43:00] When I started the AIDS foundation with three other friends, we called it Life Foundation. When I was in the University of Manitoba medical school, my Jewish surrogate mother was Yeta. We'd always be saying, "L'Chaim." Bottom line is I went, "L'Chaim" means life. Let's call it the Life Foundation. For the first year or two, the anti-abortionist think we're anti-abortion.
David McEwan: [00:43:30] The anti-abortion folks will think that we are one of them. They might accidentally give us money. It actually did happen. When they found out who we were, they stopped giving us money. That was okay. It wasn't a lot of money. Yeah. The bottom line, we called it Life Foundation. The Life also is what we're about. We're about saving lives. We started that off. Very early on, there were lots of battles going on nationally and locally. I can get into national ones at a later time.
David McEwan: [00:44:00] The legislator started (just like with Father Damien) distributing letters around. There were hate letters about me. The people that really didn't like what I was doing and that I was being an activist and all that kind of stuff. They were testing anti-gay. They used that anti-gay position to help them raise money for their campaigns for office or raise money for their churches. They were very, very, very homophobic. Cam Cavasso, Rick Reed, Terrance Tom,
David McEwan: [00:44:30] Mike Gabbard; it just was a hate-based collection of people. I learned early on that they are my PR marketing agents. Because whenever they did something really negative about the patient or directed towards me, the media would call me. I didn't even know most of the media people but they'd call me. Because I was someone that was willing to talk. I just went, "Oh, okay." I didn't even worry about Because I knew if they say something negative, I'd be getting a phone call,
David McEwan: [00:45:00] which I did. I got a lot of media exposure. This is again, really weird and totally almost providential. One of my patients with HIV when I was working out at the gym was talking to another guy. This guy I didn't know came over to talk to me. He said, "Can I hire you as a doctor to help me with a TV thing I'm doing?" I went, "Sure. What do you want?" Most other doctors were charging by the day. I said I'd charge him by the hour.
David McEwan: [00:45:30] He hired me to be the Medical Consultant for Magnum PI. Right away, I got involved. In my spare time, I'm still working full time. My evenings and weekends, I was working on Magnum PI. I learned tremendous amount from the camera people and the stage and set and the sound people because I eventually did about 12 shows with them. Whenever there's a medical show, the director of the program, we had one really big show that because of the way I organized it, I saved them about a million and a half dollars. The director said, "You're full time.
David McEwan: [00:46:00] You're going to do all our medical shows," which I did. I got very involved in that. I was very grateful to these sound and the camera people. I was dealing with these really big cameras. They taught me everything. They taught me a lot. What happened in the early days of AIDS all the way up to Elizabeth Taylor who I eventually got to meet and Rock Hudson. I was ending up on the local TV shows and doing stuff. One of the TV ladies said to me,
David McEwan: [00:46:30] "You know why you're here?" Of course, I knew because of the topic. She said, "Well, because you don't give us complex answers." It was quite amusing because at one point, I was taken aback by that. She said, "So, let's do your interview. It will be on in a minute where you go live." She didn't tell me what she was going to ask me. She did it. The second question was, "So, I hear that AIDS can be spread by ... Okay.
Connie Florez: Yeah. Hold on a second.
David McEwan: [00:47:00] Camera man with AIDS. Mosquitoes.
Mason Funk: [00:47:30] Okay. I can't even hear that.
Connie Florez: [00:48:00] Okay. It's good.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: Okay. I was on stage set.
Mason Funk: Back up a little.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: I got invited.
David McEwan: I got invited at this point-
Mason Funk: Not at this point because we want to talk about-
David McEwan: [00:48:30] Okay. I was on a TV set getting ready to go live with the evening news. The head lady asked me, "Do you know why you're here?" Of course I knew. She said, "Well, because you keep things simple." "Okay." We were into our second question. This is the time when Elizabeth Taylor Rock Hudson thing just happened. We talked about Rock Hudson for a moment and what Elizabeth was doing. She said, "I hear mosquitoes might transmit AIDS." I said, "Well, no. Actually, it's been proven that it doesn't."
David McEwan: [00:49:00] I just stopped there. Unbeknownst to me, she just went into this pregnant pause. She decided to play with. She was looking around a little bit. "Well, you heard it from the doctor himself. It doesn't happen." When the camera went off, she turned to me and she says, "That was perfect." She says, "You don't give us any bullshit." Mosquitoes don't transmit it. Thank you. She was really happy. All of these media people were teaching me how to deal with the media through trial and error.
David McEwan: [00:49:30] I was so grateful because I was scared when I went in front of the camera. I said, "David, don't forget. It isn't about you. This is about saving lives. The camera's more powerful than anything you can do. If you dont blow the camera scene, you'll end up saving thousands of lives instead of just one life at a time." Of course, when the PR marketing people come to me because of the bigots out there, it's like I can save more lives
David McEwan: [00:50:00] if I don't blow what I'm doing with the media. I actually got a lot of exposure for that. I'm just grateful because I think it helped in Hawaii save a lot of lives.
Mason Funk: I was just talking to Dean Hamer this morning about why Hawaii, unlike a lot of other places, in a very progressive way rapidly instituted a needle exchange program.
David McEwan: Yeah.
Mason Funk: So many localities were resisting that. Can you tell us that story?
David McEwan: [00:50:30] Absolutely. Well, parts of it. The Life Foundation did a lot of firsts. We were working together. In many other places in the country, the various AIDS organizations often were in conflict with the local Department of Health or whatever for whatever reason. We made a decision early on that we weren't. We were going to work with them. We worked with them really closely. We became the first AIDS organization in the nation to recommend, even though there was no treatment that everybody get tested. We had a very simple theme that came from Jack Law who's the owner of Hulas here.
David McEwan: [00:51:00] He said it one day. We will do what saves lives. It may not be politically correct. We will do whatever saves lives. What happened is we said, "If people get tested, granted and it's tragic we don't have any treatment but there will become treatment. We're going to damn well pass laws here so those people don't get discriminated, including confidentiality laws," which we did do. We're also going to encourage everybody to get tested.
David McEwan: [00:51:30] The Center for Disease Control informed Dr. Curran and the other folks there just blew up in a positive way. They said, "How in the hell does that happen out there?" They came out to visit us. By that time, we had decided. Number two. We have a private school here called Punahou (President Obamas attended it). One of our nurses and myself, we put together a program to teach AIDS to kids in the school. They did an incredible job.
David McEwan: [00:52:00] The nurses did an incredible job. The Department of Health eventually came to us and said, "Can we steal your curriculum?" We said, "Of course." The military came and asked myself and a few others. "Could you come over here and teach the marines over at the Marine Corps Air Station in Kaneohe? Please don't tell anyone in the military you're doing this." We said, "Sure." I went over thinking I was going to speak to maybe 20 or 30 people. There were a couple thousand people there. Along with the other fellow that went with me.
David McEwan: [00:52:30] We did a lot of those firsts. Then a group came together. Became very clear that transmission through needle exchange needed to be implemented in order to prevent the spread of AIDS amongst needle users and into women that might become pregnant and then into children. A group of people with the Department of Health and from The Life Foundation came together and created this program. It was initially started at Life Foundation then moved over to the Department of Health.
David McEwan: [00:53:00] A few years ago, it moved back over to the Life Foundation in terms of physical place. They've been always working together. Now Hawaii has the lowest pediatric case rate in the nation. After 25, 28 years, he needle exchange rate of transmission of newborn HIV is zero. Because you can get your needles without any problem whatsoever. The Center for Disease Control really appreciated what we're doing. We were considered very innovative. We did a whole bunch of those first in the nation things.
Mason Funk: [00:53:30] That had to be passed through the state legislation.
David McEwan: Yes. That was the Department of Health working with the Life Foundation and networking amongst the community. We're reaching out to church groups. I'm giving you a lot of personal experiences but there are thousands of people in town that are very progressive and liberal and realized common sense, this is how you do it. All we needed to do was get over the bigots and the legislature that anything AIDS related,
David McEwan: [00:54:00] they would vote against. We just overwhelmed them. We just had great people. It got through the legislature.
Mason Funk: When you reached out to church groups, what was the effect of that?
David McEwan: Depends on the church.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: For instance, the Episcopal Church. Magnificent beyond belief. Some of the Presbyterians were wonderful. One was incredibly problematic. The more mature church was a huge problem. The Catholic church, which is the largest gay organization in the world is homophobic beyond belief.
David McEwan: [00:54:30] But we know from good research that more than 50% of all priests in America are gay anyways. It's been well published, it's out there. The Catholic Church doesn't like people to know it. Welcome to the real world. I was dealing with a Bishop in Honolulu who was gay and in the closet. He had already abused one of my patients that had HIV. His order had several patients of mine who were priests with AIDS.
David McEwan: [00:55:00] I go over and see them because they asked me to come. He says, "David, can you keep the cameras out of my face on condoms?" I said, "I don't control the media. I won't use your name when I'm talking about condoms but I can't control them." I said after the meeting, "I'm going down to see a whole bunch of guys that got AIDS downstairs," which he already knew. That's where this whole AIDS and leprosy and many different intersections, which is just amazing to experience.
Mason Funk: [00:55:30] You went off on a few different tangents.
David McEwan: Absolutely. Everything is interconnected. It's a big quilt.
Mason Funk: I know. I know. I want to see if we can go back.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: Okay. Imagine you were packaging a little bit of your experience. That someone else is going to take this and run with it for some future culture battle. Again, I want to ask you. You mentioned in passing, we reached out to churches.
David McEwan: [00:56:00] Yes.
Mason Funk: I want to break that down a little bit and understand what you did when you reached out to the churches. What you said to them, what ensued and how that helped. Imagine you're teaching a class on how to reach out to the opposition and try to dilute their opposition.
David McEwan: [00:56:30] There already existed a very progressive community of churches in town who you didn't have to convince them on anything. They were not homophobic. They're very supportive. We spent time teaching them what they needed to know. They came to us with recommendations. They went out and did their own networking. They're very good. Myself, I did speak at some of the churches. Basically, the good churches who just needed more information. I wanted to give them that information. The homophobes, the problematic churches,
David McEwan: [00:57:00] they were my marketing team. I just used them for that reason. I didn't bother to try to convert them because you got to remember. I'm still working from seven in the morning until seven at night everyday and on-call on the weekends and doing all this volunteer work. I didn't have a lot of time to go out and talk to people who just didn't get it and were using their hate to run for office or to support their church. There's a lot of great churches. We're going to damn well help all of those and approach
David McEwan: [00:57:30] and deal with them. Dean Knight who was the head of the Episcopal Church here in Hawaii at that time, he was unbelievably magnificent and wonderful beyond all understanding. He was wonderful. He appeared for everything. Whether it was AIDS or marriage, he was in both of those battles. He was always there.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: There were really some magnificent churches here in town.
Mason Funk: Great. Now, let's jump forward to 1990.
David McEwan: [00:58:00] Okay.
Mason Funk: A very close friend of yours dies.
David McEwan: My best friend who was a-
Mason Funk: Hold on.
David McEwan: Okay. What you're going to do, okay.
Mason Funk: Which led in your notes to these moments, light bulb moment for you when you realized that in very simplistic terms, gay marriage or marriage equality was the ultimate path to pursue. Can you tell us that story?
David McEwan: [00:58:30] Yeah.
Mason Funk: In 1990.
David McEwan: In 1990, I had the overwhelming experience of having one of my best friends, who in retrospect, I would have loved to have become a partner or I would have loved to become married to but marriage didn't exist. He died from AIDS. I can still remember vividly to this day, sitting on my bed and crying. He was on the mainland when this happened.
David McEwan: [00:59:00] Saying that I demanded from God the right to marry. I can also remember saying like, "Where did that idea come from? How stupid are you? That's not possible. What are you even talking about?" I just put it aside because I knew. You gotto be kidding. There's no possibilities of that.
Mason Funk: Where did that thought come from?
David McEwan: I don't know. I had been thinking that if we want to prevent AIDS spread, we need to nurture relationships. The best way to nurture relationships is to get married but you can't get married.
David McEwan: [00:59:30] I wasn't prepared to get involved in a battle like that because I was still gainfully involved in AIDS full time. I just finished I think nine or 10 years of being Chairman of the Board of the AIDS Foundation. Had decided to pull back because I was exhausted emotionally because it's all volunteer time. We also had just gotten a new wonderful Executive Director at Life Foundation. Over the years, as we turned over Board Members, they've always been wonderful people.
David McEwan: [01:00:00] I've decided to pull back. What I didn't know what was going on is there's another activist in town by the name of Bill Woods, who I knew. I didn't know what he was doing. He had put together three couples and then gone to the Department of Health to get them a marriage license. They were turned down. The department was very polite. No. We don't offer that. Bye. He decided to get an attorney by the name of Dan Foley.
David McEwan: [01:00:30] Somewhere in that window, I could probably find the date if I really looked it up but I've been too busy. Bill brought him to a meeting in the home of Dr. Allen Wang and Tom Humphries in Manoa. Both of them are PhD and MD and it was a community meeting. They brought this fellow, Dan Foley. He proposed the idea of going for same gender marriage. Bells went off of my head. I can't believe this is happening right in front of me because I was just thinking that very recently.
David McEwan: [01:01:00] During one of the breaks, I dragged him into the corner. I said, "Dan, I don't know what's happening at this meeting but I'm going to help you." I said, "Do you realize this is nothing but a religious war?" He turned to me and just laughed. He says, "I'll handle the law. You handle the religion." I just laughed. I went, "That's not fair." Because I knew the religion part was going to be way worse than the legal part of it. The bottom line is I said to him, "I'll put together and help you in any way.
David McEwan: [01:01:30] You just tell me what." I said, "I still got to work full time. Behind the scenes, I'll do whatever you want." He says, "Well, help me raise money." Okay. Because I'd already been helping raise money for 10 years for AIDS. I shift my energy over to there. Anyhow, this was in 1991 that I met and jumped on board thinking that maybe it's possible. Over a period of 25 years, again with incredible people throughout the state here,
David McEwan: [01:02:00] I was on the board, either had or on the board of Marriage Project Hawaii, Hawaii Equal Rights Marriage Project, Civil Union Civil Rights and then there's another one and then there's Protect Our Constitution and then Equality of Hawaii. I think I'm missing the name of one. Through the roller coaster of 25 years of going for same gender marriage battles, I just rode that behind the scene, helping wherever I can. Raising money all the time
David McEwan: [01:02:30] and networking, bringing people in and using what I had learned through the school of hard knocks through AIDS in any way I could to help the marriage battle. Through the marriage battle just met incredible people in this town, incredible people across the country helping. Again, my faithful homophobes did their thing in promoting hatred. They become our marketing directors as well. Their message is so predictable and so hateful. It usually comes from the religious leaders and political leaders.
David McEwan: [01:03:00] We knew who they were. They knew they're going to be. They got tremendous amount of money from the Mormon church nationally, who very ignorantly brought a lot of money over here. Of course, it was all to no avail. We won in the long run. What a lot of people don't know is even though we initially lost at the Supreme Court level, during that time working with Dan and Evan Wilson from the East Coast who we got to know extremely well. They together created a pathway to bring same gender marriage to Canada
David McEwan: [01:03:30] and to Massachusetts and to Vermont and one or two other states by planting all seeds in education. We went through a period of down in this when we lost our battle for Protect Our Constitution with the amendment. I think I can say this legally now. I don't think Dan Foley will be upset with me. Because we've kept this quiet.
Mason Funk: [01:04:00] You're all right.
David McEwan: That's okay.
Connie Florez: Tickle.
Mason Funk: You had that when you were just like, "Oh, I got to." Let's pause cameras for a second.
David McEwan: I'll come back to it.
Mason Funk: Hold one second.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: Set up for me very briefly as preface that Dan Foley was this lawyer and became instrumental in advancing the cause of marriage equality in Hawaii. Go in this part.
David McEwan: [01:04:30] Dan Foley was a lead attorney in Hawaii for the same gender marriage battle from 1991 until 2013 when it was finally solved. He's the spirit and the energy and the brilliance emanated from him and was assisted by Evan Wilson from the East Coast.
Connie Florez: Hold on. Somehow, it got ... What happened?
Mason Funk: That is weird.
Connie Florez: Yeah.
Mason Funk: [01:05:00] Of course, we have a siren. That is so weird.
Connie Florez: Rolling.
David McEwan: Dan Foley was the lead attorney in the same gender case in 1991 in Hawaii and assisted by Evan Wilson from the East Coast. There are many amazing roller coaster experiences. One of the ones that really blew me away and I'll never forget sitting in his office one day. He came in because I had been doing some fund raising. He said, "David, you'll be upset with me. I need to tell you something that I did."
David McEwan: [01:05:30] I said, "Dan, I can't imagine being upset with you." He said, "Well, you need to know. I'll explain to you why I did it. Myself and two or three other legislators quietly wrote the constitutional amendment clause that was going to be put into the constitution to outlaw same gender marriage." I'm going, " Dan?
David McEwan: [01:06:00] What? We knew it was coming but you wrote it?" He said, "Well, actually, yes. Myself and," he didn't give me the name but there was one or two other people. He said, "We wrote it."
Mason Funk: Sorry.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: [01:06:30] Okay. Okay. I need you to go back as far as him saying you're going to be mad at me.
David McEwan: Okay. Dan walked into the room. He said, "David, you're going to be mad at me." I couldn't imagine why I'd be mad at Dan. He said, "Myself and a couple other guys just finished writing the constitutional amendment that will be voted on to outlaw same gender marriage in Hawaii." I knew this was coming. Everybody knew that the legislature is talking about doing something like that.
David McEwan: [01:07:00] He said, "Yeah. We just wrote it." For a moment, I was a little bit stunned. He says, "There's a reason we wrote it. We wrote it so that we knew it could be overcome. Because we know it's coming. So far better that it should be written so that we know it can be defeated." He wrote a fatal flaw into it and the other two people. Again, I don't know who they were. So that it was outlawed and of course, many years later, it was overthrown.
Mason Funk: [01:07:30] Do you remember what it was?
David McEwan: Basically, he said that it's the right of the legislature to decide whether same sex marriage will be allowed in Hawaii. Because it's the legislature, legislatures change overtime. They can be educated. You can convince them to maybe vote for same gender marriage, which is precisely what happened.
David McEwan: [01:08:00] See, that was 15 years later. We finally got it through the legislature. We were one of the few states in the nation that got same gender marriage by getting it through the legislature. Because the legislature voted for it. Dan had the confidence that with education, that we can win this through the legislature and it doesn't need to be through the Supreme Court. Even though we will continue to fight for it through the Supreme Court and all the different battles. He was right on that. We could have been first. We weren't but we finally came through. The legislative process won it for us.
Mason Funk: [01:08:30] The idea was a different version that would have been something like marriage is only between a man and a woman.
David McEwan: Period.
Mason Funk: It's something that can't be changed.
David McEwan: Period. Okay?
Mason Funk: Yeah.
David McEwan: That's a definition. They didn't define it. It was up to the legislature to define and decide what was and was not legal. That allowed for education to occur.
Mason Funk: [01:09:00] Let me just play devil's advocate. Do you think that forces, the anti-marriage equality forces, were so easily hoodwinked? Do you think they might have ultimately agreed that if and when the legislature is able to pass marriage equality-
David McEwan: No. I think they believe that would never happen. It didn't occur to them that it-
Mason Funk: Sorry. Back up. When you say I think they, just tell me what you're talking about.
David McEwan: I think the religious leaders and the legislative leaders could never imagine the legislators going the other way.
David McEwan: Because they were so powerfully against us. But Dan had the confidence and the vision that people can be educated and that we will ultimately win the battle. He was right. One thing I've learned in this battle, Dan Foley is really a brilliant man. He's very confident of people and the goodness of people and their ability with proper guidance and education will do the right thing. How our democracy should work-
Mason Funk: [01:09:30] Pause for a second.
Connie Florez: Rolling.
Mason Funk: Two things before we move on. One is just tell us a bit about Dan Foley. Who was Dan Foley? You don't need to repeat all the other stories you told.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: Just tell us, who is Dan Foley?
David McEwan: Dan is a-
Mason Funk: Dan Foley.
David McEwan: Dan Foley is a Caucasian heterosexual married man with two wonderful sons. He's a Buddhist. His legal training was in San Francisco, one of the schools there.
David McEwan: [01:10:00] He's been in Hawaii for many years. He was in private practice when the case came to him. He told me as he will tell anyone that he just thought these three people deserved a day in court on their request for same gender marriage. He saw no reason why they shouldn't be allowed. It was just as simple as that. He had no idea what would come of it.
Mason Funk: Sorry.
David McEwan: That's okay.
Connie Florez: Yeah.
Mason Funk: [01:10:30] Okay. Okay.
Connie Florez: Okay.
Mason Funk: Okay. Let me just ask a sub question about Dan Foley. Just briefly tell me three couples. I guess I just want a little bit more of how did these couples find Dan Foley?
David McEwan: [01:11:00] Bill Woods who was a local activist, who at that time, I think he was a coordinator at the gay community center. He was very progressive in his ideas. He's never told me so I don't know the answer to this. He decided once upon a time that there needs to be same gender marriage. He went out and talked with three couples. I believe he asked them if they were interested and if they would like to pursue a case. When they said yes, he took them to the Department of Health and just formulated that very early stage.
David McEwan: [01:11:30] First couple of weeks or something like that putting it all together. I don't know how long it actually took. He had to go look for an attorney. I heard he had checked two or three attorneys but Dan was the first person that stepped up to do it. In a sense said he would do it for free if he has to. Then he said to me, "But if you can raise some money, I don't mind because we got to buy stamps." He never got paid much for it.
David McEwan: [01:12:00] We gave him a tiny little stipend whenever we got a little bit of money, but it was tuppence.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: But He changed the world. Dan believed it was true, said it should happen, he worked on it, he was very loyal, he was very dependable, he was very committed, and he changed the world.
Mason Funk: Okay. Now, I play devil's advocate again.
David McEwan: Sure.
Mason Funk: [01:12:30] Because I held this opinion quite strongly for some time, that marriage is an outdated, horribly tainted institution. Why the hell would we gay people who were here to create a new vision of human relationships knocked down by society's old ways? Why would we want to spend tremendous amounts of time and energy and capital fighting for the right to join institution that's fundamentally corrupt?
David McEwan: [01:13:00] One thing, you're thinking of yourself. You've got to stop thinking about yourself. Okay. A lot of people would say to us, "Well, I don't want to get married." It's not about you. In the state of Hawaii, there are 1,100 rights that you cannot have because you cannot get married. They went through all the law books, Dan and his volunteer law students. There are 1,100 rights that you can't have. Little tiny things, things about hunting licenses.
David McEwan: [01:13:30] Most absurd little things. Big things, little things. You don't know about it because you can't even avail yourself of it. In one sense, we're not interested in the religious rights. We're interested in the civil rights, the 1,100 things that you can't have. When you look at them and you really see them, they're big.
Mason Funk: Why not call it civil unions in the government?
David McEwan: [01:14:00] Because it's not marriage. The laws were written for marriage. You say you're going to substitute it, you're not going to win that war over the homophobes. Because they thought you might win. They were fighting for that just as much. You might as well go for marriage. Some gay people wanted to have a religious-based institution, a marriage service. That's fine. That's still totally independent of this. The whole case that we won actually has nothing to do with the religious institutions. They don't have to marry you. They're allowed to not marry if they don't want to.
David McEwan: [01:14:30] Fine. I don't want to go to a church that doesn't want to marry me. I'll go to another place. In fact, there's more churches in town that will marry you if you're gay than there are that won't marry you. You'll have no trouble in Hawaii getting married.
Mason Funk: Why do you give ground on that score but you wouldn't give ground if, for example, a baker says, "I don't want to make you a cake out of religious grounds." You would insist. That's obviously one of the Supreme Court cases that's coming. You insist that that baker has to bake you a cake. Why give ground to the church and not give ground to the baker?
David McEwan: [01:15:00] I'm reluctant to answer that because I'm not a lawyer. I haven't studied the details of that. I know there's a lot of sophisticated little things going on there and the few things that I've read. I'm actually not going to give you an answer but I really think a gay couple should be allowed to have a cake. It's not an art form. It just is a bloody cake. Marriage is a whole different thing.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: 1,100 civil rights.
Mason Funk: [01:15:30] Great. Great answer. Now let's spend a little time talking about leprosy and AIDS. It is rather phenomenal that you're inspired by this tale of this missionary, Father Damien who came to care for people with this disease like AIDS in so many ways. Can you just talk about ... I don't know. There's not really a question there. Introduce us to the idea
Mason Funk: [01:16:00] that Hawaii has this incredible legacy of this disease called leprosy. When you were here, this disease in some ways mixed in in so many ways.
David McEwan: I'm learning after seven decades that history does repeat itself, which I didn't really know. I've heard it all the time over the years. From the age of 13, I knew the story of leprosy. Damien inspired me. That's part of the things that brought me to Hawaii.
David McEwan: [01:16:30] Little knowing that what was going on. In Hawaii, I had Hawaii's first case of AIDS. I already learned a lot about Damien and what he had been through. Then all of the things from Damien that he had gone through started happening to me. The people condemning me, saying I'm stealing money. That I'm having sex with the patients. It's just like, "Wow. History repeats itself." I started realizing that when the legislative started introducing bills into the legislature to send AIDS patients to Kalaupapa,
David McEwan: [01:17:30] like, "Oh, my gosh. This is just like Damien's time." I had in my private practice here in town, I had people with leprosy in my practice. It's now called Hansen's Disease. We don't use leprosy. I just started trying to get how similar these two experiences are. Both from the patients experience and from my point of view as a caretaker, which I consider Damien to be a caretaker as well.
David McEwan: [01:18:00] I was just amazed that history would repeat itself.
Mason Funk: Squeaking but we're okay.
David McEwan: I had the experience that history was repeating itself. Be it leprosy or AIDS, the same dynamics were happening in the political system, the religious system, the health system, the patient system. It was just really dramatic and overwhelming and saddening. It dawned on me.
David McEwan: [01:18:30] This wasn't bells going off or anything. I went, "There's one reason why it repeats itself. It's called the Bible. Because the Bible teaches hate." It was teaching hate back in the leprosy days. It's still teaching the same thing in the AIDS days. That all of the patients in both these areas were experiencing hate. It was coming from the religious leaders and the political leaders. In one sense, America had learned and the rest of the world, has learned nothing still. Although we've learned a lot.
David McEwan: [01:19:00] In 50 or 100 years, we're going to be going through this again. To the world, I would simply say, "You better start studying AIDS and restudy leprosy or Hansen's disease because a lot of you have forgotten. Folks, this is coming back again. Hate. You've got to be taught to hate a lot before you're six or seven or eight. You've got to be careful you taught to hate. You're still doing that, folks."
Mason Funk: See, when you were going to say, it dawned on me, when you said one of these two situations have in common and you said, Bible.
Mason Funk: [01:19:30] I thought you were going to say human nature. Because I think that there's a very powerful part of human nature that want to make scapegoats. I don't necessarily think that one. I think it's because we're animals in some ways. We have a tendency to form herds and then want to expel certain-
David McEwan: Totally agree with you, but leprosy is sealed in the Bible. That's the classic example of teaching a ...
Mason Funk: [01:20:00] Tell me what you mean by that. Sealed in the Bible.
David McEwan: All through the Bible in different places, you'll see the story of the lepers. Okay? There's lots of ways to read about it and to interpret it and misinterpret things. That human behavior of hating someone who is ill has been a teaching of the Bible forever. Of course, Jesus wasn't teaching it but the society of the time was teaching it. Same thing with AIDS.
David McEwan: [01:20:30] It was the same religious and political people using their hate techniques they've been taught and teaching people to hate these people. I'm saying it's going to happen again. It's going to be another disease. It's going to be another age. It's going to be another victim. We're going to hate them. We're going to isolate them. It almost was happening with Ebola for reasons that I understand. It was a much more dramatic, quick catch and an easy catch.
David McEwan: [01:21:00] AIDS is very difficult catch. Leprosy is an incredibly difficult catch, but leprosy is sealed in the Bible. That's our forever because the Bible will never go away, which is fine with me. It's a teaching tool. That's going to be there forever. Learn and study in the Bible how leprosy was dealt with or not dealt with. Learn in the Bible how Jesus dealt with it.
Mason Funk: Two things you mentioned that I want to go back to. One, can you just be more specific about the hate.
Connie Florez: [01:21:30] Swap cards we're at five.
Mason Funk: Okay. Give me one second. I won't forget my question. For everyone watching this and who might be in some similar situation and needing to draw inspiration from you. You don't have to dwell on the negative but I would like you to give us as real a sense as possible.
David McEwan: My reaction to it.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
David McEwan: Yeah. Okay.
Connie Florez: Rolling.
Mason Funk: Okay. Tell us about the ...
Connie Florez: We got a bus.
Mason Funk: [01:22:00] When the bus passes. Just give us a little more of a sense of what it was like to be in that moment and what you were thinking, the letters you received. Like I said, what it felt like. Can you go?
Connie Florez: No.
Mason Funk: All right. You can ponder that one.
David McEwan: Okay. Throughout the AIDS decades, especially during the first eight or so years, I received a lot of hate mail.
David McEwan: [01:22:30] Sometime, it came actually from the gay community. Again, unsigned in which they said I was stealing money to renovate my house, which, of course, wasn't true or misappropriating money. Apart from churches, I would get people saying all sorts of religious explanations as to why what I was doing was bad and would go to hell and all sorts of stuff like that. Within the legislature itself, I had some legislators who I won't name involved in
David McEwan: [01:23:00] circulating things about what I or the Life Foundation were doing that were bad. Without going into a lot of the details, because it's just usually the stupid hate stuff. I've got copies of it in my archives that I gave to the University of Hawaii recently. The bottom line is, initially, I was hurt and confused. Again, that came back, this sense of empowerment that they're just my PR marketing guys as painful as it was.
David McEwan: [01:23:30] It was quite simple. I said to myself, "I'm not a bad person. What I'm doing is not wrong. I'm trying to save lives. I'm trying to prevent the spread of illness. This is what my career is about. This is what my belief is. I know fundamentally they're wrong. I have no choice but to listen to it and then move on." I didn't really try to respond to them because that would just empower them. It was just a waste of time.
David McEwan: [01:24:00] Because I knew there were lots of other religious and political people in town that are absolutely wonderful. I wasn't going to let them dominate my life. Whenever it happens, it really catches you off guard but you shouldn't lose hope. Because you're probably on the right track with your doing something good.
Mason Funk: Great. Okay. Awesome. That was great. Now the other question I wanted to pick up on was you mentioned in passing these bills that were introduced or whatever. The idea of, "Hey. We have a rumor on Molokai.
Mason Funk: [01:24:30] Why don't we send all people with AIDS over there?" That's mind blowing. You lived it, so you were just on a ballot and you're fine. We all know that there were initiatives to quarantine people. This is a real life case where people wanted to send people with AIDS to the leper colony.
David McEwan: Right.
Mason Funk: Can you just walk us through that? Tell us that story. Give us a take.
David McEwan: [01:25:00] Sometime in the mid 80s, the leprosy colony or Hansen's disease colony on Kalaupapa is still open. There are still patients over there that can legally leave but can choose to not leave if they want to be still there. Because a lot of them have deformities and stuff that make it awkward sometimes. They're free to move. They're not infectious. The colony is still there. In the middle of the AIDS epidemic, they started considering legislation to send people with HIV over to Kalaupapa.
David McEwan: [01:25:30] I at that time also had patients in my practice with leprosy. As well as over the years, I had well passed a thousand people. I stopped counting at a thousand in my practice. I couldn't believe that here is another thing that was repeating itself in history and it's actually going to happen. There was certainly talk of it. There were rough drafts but it never went beyond that. Because basically, we had a lot of good people in the Department of Health. These really wonderful legislators was like, "That is totally repugnant.
David McEwan: [01:26:00] That's going to go nowhere. We're going to stop it." It was stopped.
Mason Funk: Tell us again what is Kalaupapa.
David McEwan: Kalaupapa is a name of a piece of land on the East side of Molokai, which has been there since the beginning of time. The leprosy colony was formed. In the 1880s, 70s, 80s roughly became the colony for people that were diagnosed with leprosy in Hawaii.
David McEwan: [01:26:30] The Department of Health enforceably took them over there. At that time, there was no treatment. The life span was quite long because the disease spreads slowly. It's quite disfiguring. People based on Biblical teachings were terrified of leprosy. The general population tolerated them going over there. Father Damien, who was a priest from Belgium came to Hawaii. In the 1870s, 80s, I'm not sure the exact date,
David McEwan: [01:27:00] was asked to go and take care of the people in Molokai. When he went over there, there was basically nothing there. He started everything and helped build the buildings and worked with the Department of Health and with the church and other people to develop a place that became eventually an amazing place. I'm not sure the exact figure. I believe it's three or 4,000 people with leprosy are buried over there over the years. It's still open.
David McEwan: [01:27:30] I believe in this date now of 2018, there are about I think between five and eight people that are still living there. They will be allowed to stay there until the last one passes. Believe it or not at one point, there were people in the legislature that were going to develop it into a development of some kind. It was wonderful to watch. It is for me silently.
David McEwan: [01:28:00] There was an uproar in the state just amongst the general public and the legislators and everything. There's no way you're going to do anything to this place. That it's going to become a park or maybe a few of the buildings that are there that are actually from the Department of Health might be restored. We're going to use it as a teaching tool and a place for people to come and learn. We still have the graveyard there. The graveyard over there is spread all over the island. It's huge. Many times at different points,
David McEwan: [01:28:30] people were buried in concrete bunkers with the concrete roof. There was a cross. Overtime, it would change. The reality is, they don't have grave thieves over there. I've been over there. A lot of those roofs have fallen in. The people's bodies are still there. Their bones are still there, their belongings are still there. Nobody's touching them. This is a sacred place. The bottom line is it's going to be owned by the state. It will never be developed. It will be an eternal teaching place for humanity.
Mason Funk: [01:29:00] Okay. I think we are almost done. I have ...
Connie Florez: David, did you want to share about the people of Kalaupapa when they were talking about quarantine?
David McEwan: Shall I go a little into that? Yeah.
Connie Florez: How they got on a plane?
Mason Funk: Wow.
Connie Florez: They went to DC?
David McEwan: I don't have all of that. I have some of it.
Connie Florez: [01:29:30] Yeah.
David McEwan: Stephanie Castillo is a author on the local newspaper. She started filming a documentary entitled Simple Courage for the Age of AIDS. She started interviewing people on Kalaupapa with leprosy and people with AIDS on this island. Then would bring those patients to the opposite person's home and interview them and introduce them to each other.
David McEwan: [01:30:00] It's a very amazing documentary and interviewing these people and the patients discussing the similarities about it. The people with leprosy are not infectious. They can go anywhere in the world. They're not going to transmit anything. They have played a major role in the canonization of Father Damien in terms of educating the Catholic Church and the people and stuff. They continue to do teaching in many, many different ways.
David McEwan: [01:30:30] They did go to Damien's canonization. Also some of the head people from the Catholic church came here and brought different relics of his body back to Kalaupapa. Because his body originally was here and taken away. They brought portions of it back. It's a very, very powerful place. Anyone that comes to Hawaii, if you want to understand profound things, you go to Kalaupapa. It's not difficult. A lot of people think it is. It isn't. It's a short ride, where there's a little plane that can come in and out once or twice a day at the most.
David McEwan: [01:31:00] You can go there. If you want a powerful story, go to Kalaupapa. I couldn't say anything more because I don't know enough of what you were alluding to. I know about it but I wasn't participating in it.
Connie Florez: When you go there and they actually walk you through it. One of the men that's there as a guide. He has Hansen's disease shared about the experience with AIDS. They share that in their tour.
David McEwan: [01:31:30] Do they? That's interesting because when I was there, I was there when we were shooting this. AIDS was still full blown. This is about '90 or '91. I had that tour but they didn't really talk about it.
Connie Florez: It was about 2000.
David McEwan: Yeah? Okay.
Connie Florez: Yeah. They actually made it a part of their talk.
David McEwan: That's great.
Connie Florez: This is history repeating itself.
David McEwan: Good.
Connie Florez: It's happening again. They shared about their experiences.
David McEwan: Wonderful.
Connie Florez: Going to DC and talking to the Congress that they cannot have this happen. This is our experience.
David McEwan: [01:32:00] I didn't know that.
Connie Florez: Yeah.
David McEwan: Yeah. There was even talk about it nationally. You probably have heard that. When it was talked about it here, it's taken seriously.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
David McEwan: Because we know what you're going to do.
Connie Florez: Yeah. They do have as part of their tour now.
David McEwan: Great. Wonderful.
Mason Funk: [01:32:30] Yeah. We're done except I have four final questions. I ask this to every single person I have interviewed.
David McEwan: Okay. Sure.
Mason Funk: These answers are intended to be pearls of wisdom. Short, sweet and to the point.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: Are you ready? The first one is if somebody comes to you in your daily life, friend, acquaintance, whatever and says, "David, I'm thinking about coming out." What would be the nugget of guidance or wisdom that you would offer that person?
David McEwan: [01:33:00] Because I used it recently on a number of kinds. I was like, "Don't forget, being gay is God's gift to you. Cherish who you are. Don't be afraid to say it lightly and gently. Realize the other people will be a little scared or uncertain. Convey the message that you are rejoicing if you can honestly." You got to be honest about that.
Mason Funk: Right. Great. Number two. What is your hope for the future?
David McEwan: [01:33:30] My biggest hope for the future is world peace. If it's the hope for the LGBT community? Well, the answer is world peace, number one.
Connie Florez: Let's do it again.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: Yeah. We're waiting for this motorcycle to pass.
Connie Florez: Yes.
Mason Funk: Okay. Let me ask you the question again. Got you a little prepared.
David McEwan: [01:34:00] Okay.
Mason Funk: Let me know your thoughts. What is your hope for the future? It can be in any sense at all.
David McEwan: The one that's always at the top of mine is how to bring about world peace in every way we possibly can. For the LGBT community is that we continue on our track to keep teaching the next generation to appreciate who they are, the gift of life. That they are good people. As Maya Angelou said, " Your brain. You've got every single thing there that you need. Use it. You can go anywhere you want to."
David McEwan: [01:34:30] It's really true. Don't let anyone teach you. I was told that I wasn't smart enough to be a doctor in high school. I had wanted to be a doctor. I went basically in my brain, I went, "Oh, screw you." Proved them totally wrong. The guy eventually wanted me to date his daughter when he found out I was in medical school. I turned that down. It's getting better. That little old song that we keep hearing all the time.
David McEwan: [01:35:00] Listen to the song when you need to because it is getting better. You can be part of making it better. Just don't buy hate that someone else has been taught. Reject it.
Mason Funk: Great. Why is it important to you personally to tell your story?
David McEwan: The unexpected experiences that I had in my life which I could never have predicted particularly in the LGBT related arena came on to me unexpectedly.
David McEwan: [01:35:30] I think I handled them well and I learned a lot. I'm just hopeful that it's useful to someone else. Ultimately, in a few years, I'll be leaving earth. I had never thought about it until you called me. I thought, "I know the power of media because I've worked in it with Magnum PI and Jake and the Fat Man and Lost and Hawaii Five-O. I understand that power."
Mason Funk: [01:36:00] Sorry.
Connie Florez: Red light.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: I'll start back with I know the power of media.
Mason Funk: Exactly.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: I've changed you well.
[01:36:30] Silent
Connie Florez: [01:37:00] Tell them again. Okay.
Mason Funk: Okay.
David McEwan: I know the power of media. It just occurred to me that to the future generations, I would just want them to know that they are welcome. That they're God's gift to mankind.
David McEwan: [01:37:30] Go forward and do good things. Don't abuse this freedom. Care for other people. Teach the next generation. This is a continuous thing that's got to keep happening every generation to the next. Maybe something that I've said has been useful. If it is, if it's helped one person, wonderful. If it's helped more, wow. Thank you, media.
Mason Funk: [01:38:00] Great. Last question. OUTWORDS being now 101 interviews with people like you all over the country and hopefully we'll grow to many more. What is the value in your mind, in your perspective capturing these stories from different people around the country 60, 70, 80 and more.
David McEwan: What's so wonderful about this potential of this-
Mason Funk: Mention OUTWORDS.
David McEwan: Outreach or OUTWORDS?
Mason Funk: OUTWORDS. OUTWORDS.
David McEwan: Okay. One of the fundamental amazing things about outward is that you're capturing-
Mason Funk: [01:38:30] OUTWORDS.
David McEwan: OUTWORDS, okay. One of the amazing fundamental things about OUTWORDS is that you're capturing people that have done a lot and sharing it. When I grew up, I can honestly say I didn't even know anyone that was gay until I was into my mid 20s. I was all on my own. I knew I was. I had read about it. I've read a few books and stuff like that.
David McEwan: [01:39:00] You're getting to the next generation a chance to see this, no matter what we all say to you because it's going to be hundreds and hundreds of people relating to this message. I just hope you folks have a blast with this information. You don't have to go through the crap that a lot of us in our generation went through of not knowing a single person who is LGBT. Although you may not physically know me, my message and everyone else's message is amazing. It's really, really trippy.
David McEwan: [01:39:30] It'd be fun to come back and watch this in a hundred years. Maybe I'll make an appointment with you. The other thing I'd like to say as we begin to close, I want to thank all my patients that were my patients for the last 40 years in Hawaii. It was a privilege and an honor to help them. They taught me profound things about the human race. I also want to thank the LGBT community who's taught me profound things and wonderful things and has enriched my life beyond all measure.
David McEwan: [01:40:00] I will keep on giving back until I'm pau, which in Hawaii means finished.
Mason Funk: Great. Do you have any questions?
Connie Florez: Yeah. Those guys that you ... Because I'm thinking on a lot of grayer scale. Those men that you got together with and collaborated with to open the Life Foundation. Can you share with us how that genesis happened?
David McEwan: [01:40:30] Sure.
Mason Funk: Answer me.
David McEwan: Okay. At the very beginning with the first couple of patients with AIDS, I had some close friends here in town. John Acevedo, who worked with the Department of Health. Bill Mintz, who worked at one of the credit unions. Smith, I'm blocking on his first name for a sec. He's an attorney who's still in town. John unfortunately died from AIDS.
David McEwan: [01:41:00] Bill Mintz died from a cardiac problem. Bill Smith, I think it is. He's a big island. We came together. All of us had some friends that were dealing with these kind of issues. We were friends. We just decided we got to do something about this. I had this information from San Francisco of what was going on. We just sat down in one of the offices and basically put it together with the help of another friend, an attorney,
David McEwan: [01:41:30] who wrote the documents. Legally, the Life Foundation also doing business as the AIDS Foundation of Hawaii. Concentrating on Oahu but we initially helped develop ones for each of the other islands that are now independent. We just went through all the bureaucracy and took about a year to create the documents and get the people on the board and get them activated and get them going. In the late '82, early '83, we were all frantically running trying to make it happen.
David McEwan: [01:42:00] Because we saw what was coming here. We knew we were further behind in the development on the mainland because people with the disease would come here. People from here would go to the mainland and catch it. There was some of that going on. We just knew we were further behind. We had an opportunity. If we got really aggressive and really effective with education, with all of the different manners to help prevent the spread of the disease, we could maybe make a bigger impact
David McEwan: [01:42:30] than perhaps some of the organizations in the mainland that were already well into it. The early people were all very wonderful. Our first formal meeting, once we were totally in existence, was held on the dining room table of Jack Law, who's owner of Hula's Bar & Lei Stand here in Hawaii. A very famous bar, a wonderful place to go. We held it in his dining room table.
David McEwan: [01:43:00] We had a couple of meetings there before we started getting too big. Very quickly, we got very big. It was very powerful time, very scary. Very powerful. I know it was so scary. I know how bad it was that I actually chose to become celibate for 10 years. I think I understand this. I'm sorry. I'm signing off on sex for 10 years until I really believe
David McEwan: [01:43:30] that I understand until we got some treatment. Yeah. That's okay. I'm still here.
Mason Funk: I bet the 10-year anniversary was hard.
David McEwan: It was a non-event. It was like, "Okay. It's over."
Mason Funk: All right.
Connie Florez: Good.
David McEwan: I must say to the crowd, to the world, abstinence works.
Mason Funk: Yeah. That's one way to stay alive.
David McEwan: [01:44:00] Yeah.
Mason Funk: Anything else?
Connie Florez: I think one last thing because the fact that you got people together on all these different movements. What would you say to the young people?
Mason Funk: You can answer because this is the last thing.
David McEwan: Yeah. Life is a roller coaster. There's going to be lots of challenges. It is yet unknown in the future.
David McEwan: [01:44:30] One of the most powerful ways to deal with whatever that's going to be is to work with your friends and family. It's very important to network. Whether it's an LGBT community and a straight community. The biggest problems are going to be when the religious and the political community is going after you. Make sure you develop good relationships with the straight religious and political community. You can be ready for those battles. Because they're coming, I guarantee that. Work together. You're always going to have differences when you're with a group of friends.
David McEwan: [01:45:00] You need to agree to disagree because you do have a common goal. Keep working. Never give up because you almost always are on the right. This is a little religiousy or something, but in Hawaii, it's slogan is the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.
David McEwan: [01:45:30] That word righteousness can be so easily abused. It's almost always by definition abused. It's been helpful to understand what that word really means. You've got to be very pure. You've got to be very honest and very truthful. You in a sense can be righteous but you better not say it because that's an insult to say it even. You can become righteous.
David McEwan: [01:46:00] You're a gift to the universe. You're a gift to the LGBT community. Being gay is a gift from God. Welcome aboard. The globe keeps spinning. Take good care of it. Because we're doing an incredibly poor job in 2018. We have leadership that defies understanding of anything, and so the wisdom is going to have to come from you. My apologies to the next four or five,
David McEwan: [01:46:30] 10 years down the road, we're going to have to reverse all sorts of things that have been done just because of the stupidity of where we are right now. My apologies.
Mason Funk: Okay. That's great. That's a wrap.
David McEwan: Okay.
Mason Funk: Thank you very much.
David McEwan: You're welcome.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Connie Florez
Date: January 09, 2018
Location: Hawai`i LGBT Legacy Foundation, Honolulu, HI